I envy the twenty-somethings who pack up after college graduation and try their luck in a new city; waiting tables for money while ravenously seeking their dream job, or those who take a year off to backpack through Europe, or even those who choose the carefree (albeit, low-paying) job over something in the cubicle club.
I often dream of taking a year off to road-trip the U.S. or find a way to make money as a digital nomad while traveling overseas, and admire those people who take such high risks. I’m simply not one of those people.
I made the “safe” choice after graduation, and continue to work at a public utility in my hometown. I make the daily commute, guzzle coffee in my cubicle, and suffer the effects of long hours sitting in a computer chair. I often wonder what ways my life could be improved if I was willing to take more risks, but I’m generally content with my safe (and yes, totally boring) lifestyle.
I’ve watched a couple of my peers take large risks after college and become wildly successful, working their dream job while they’re young. Just the same, I’ve watched slews of my peers take similar risks, and end up in a trio of minimum-wage jobs or unpaid internships with little opportunity for growth. Each of these outcomes provides key learning experiences, but watching my peers has taught me that sometimes it just makes sense to play it safe.
Here’s why I think it’s okay to be square:
I’m saving my money. The biggest, and most reasonable, incentive for taking the safest route in your twenties, is the monetary benefits. For many of us, finding a high-paying job is a struggle, and many twenty-somethings work multiple low-paying jobs out of necessity.
The opportunity to successfully pay off student loan debt, insurance bills, and car payments without stress is a rare privilege. By taking advantage of the opportunity to live at home and work locally, I’m able to save money on rent, groceries, and gas, and put this money towards bills and even into my savings.
While many of my friends are struggling to pay their bills and continue to defer student loans, I’m able to maintain a good financial standing that I can carry with me into the future. By working a less-than-perfect lifestyle now, I’m able to save up for vacations abroad, and hope to have enough money for a year-long road trip a few years down the road.
I can still have fun. My daily life isn’t exactly the adventure I’d like to be having in my early twenties, but it’s still an adventure. Because I choose to work a nine to five, and am careful about how I spend my money, I’m able to take a short vacation to visit a friend in Germany, and I don’t have to worry about the cost of the plane ticket or other expenses when I get there. I can enjoy long weekends at music festivals, and go out to dinner with my friends.
These are small pleasures that keep my morale high, and I doubt I’d have the means to enjoy them if I wasn’t financially secure enough to pay all my bills first.
I’m setting myself up for independence I can manage. Too often, I see my friends struggling to make ends meet. They depend on their parents for gas money. They work multiple jobs, and still fail to pay their loans. They’ve taken risks, which I admire, but they must also contend with the stress that accompanies financial struggle.
By playing it safe after college, I’m able to save money so that I can pay of my bills faster, retire early, and live a more financially-savvy lifestyle. I can rest easy knowing that I’m making smart choices for my future. Additionally, although I’m not working in my desired field, I’m able to spend my weekends on my passions; writing articles, reviewing books, and reading critically. I’ve found that I can build my resume in my free time, and my bank account during work time.
I admire those people who take risks and live vicariously. These people are often the bravest, and many times, the risk-takers are the ones who find the most success in their careers. Although I’m not a risk-taker myself, I’ve come to terms with my decision to play it safe after college graduation, and I’ve found happiness and joy in my decision to stay home (for now) and work a secure job that isn’t in my desired field.
I may not be living my dream, but I’m always dreaming. It’s taught me that the key to being content is finding the positive qualities in your lifestyle, no matter how you choose to live your life.